Camp by L. C. Rosen

Camp is a charming YA novel set at a summer camp that looks at toxic masculinity, friendship, and being yourself. Randy is sixteen and the highlight of his year is spending his summers at Camp Outland, a summer camp for LGBTQ teenagers. He has his best friends, he stars in the yearly musical, and it’s where he first painted his nails. This year, however, he’s set his sights on getting his camp crush, Hudson, to fall in love with him, but Hudson is very masculine and seems to only like other masculine guys, so Randy reinvents himself as ‘Del’, a sports-playing guy with no interest in theatre or clothes. With his plan working, Randy has to work out whether his friends are right, and ‘Del’ isn’t really who he is.

This is very much a romcom novel: fun, happy, and with a narrative that works to bring everyone together. The premise can make it a bit frustrating to see Randy making the choices he does, but that is part of the book’s power, that Randy makes the kind of bad decisions teenagers (and indeed adults) make to try and impress someone. The range of supporting characters are great and it was a shame to not see more of a lot of the characters, partly due to the fact that Randy was so focused on Hudson that sometimes he forgot his friends. Showing the different friendships and the way the teens fell back into them each summer was a real highlight of the book, and it almost feels like Camp needs an ensemble-style sequel to give more of them a chance to shine. The setting works really well to highlight some of the issues around gender stereotypes and masculinity within a specifically LGBTQ space, but also make mention of other issues in a light way.

After Rosen’s previous Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts), it’s not surprising to see another YA novel that tries to address issues for teenagers but also be funny and modern. Camp is on the cheerful, romcom end of that scale, and the predictable happy ending is what you want from it. I could see it being adapted into a film (or a Netflix series expanding some of the supporting characters), as it feels like a very visual novel with a lot of colour and excitement, but also would benefit from a soundtrack (I finished reading it with The Shoop Shoop Song stuck in my head).